Quirky Habits Can Win Races

An interesting sidelight to last Thursday’s Hobart Thousand was the interaction between dogs’ running styles, the way the race was run, and the nature of the track.

First, Paw Licking excelled itself out of the box and in the run to the turn. Yes, it did run quicker than Black Magic Opal in its heat (5.04 v 5.11) and even quicker again in the final (4.99) with BMO hot on its heels. Relatively, these were marginally better times than its career average. So be it, that’s the fortunes of racing.

(Note that, this time, the above sectionals are pretty accurate, unlike most of the nonsense published in Tasmania).

Anyway, in doing that, Paw Licking not only took the other dog’s running but forced it to race where it is less comfortable. BMO had to keeping thinking about what it should do. There was never more than a length between them all the way to the turn and Paw Licking likes to race one or two off the fence

Around the turn Paw Licking got even further away and BMO had more ground to make up by the time it entered the straight, got to the rail, and reached maximum speed. Overall, BMO is definitely the better dog but not on this night.

A reason for that is that Paw Licking not only got away really well, but it also is extremely quick on the bend, more so than most dogs. That’s the nature of its galloping action. For another example of the same thing, go back to the final of the Ballarat Cup. Ronan Izmir led down the back straight but Paw Licking, on its outside, then overtook it on the turn and led into the straight, only for Ronan Izmir to pour on the power in the run home for a strong win, much as BMO tried to do in Hobart.

All these episodes, incidentally, tell us that most of these dogs are optimised for races around the 450m mark, not for 520m (which would have been a good reason for BMO to head to Hobart in the first place, rather than compete in the Brisbane Cup series over the longer trip).

Go back to my article on 25 November (Magic, Yes, But Not Yet a Champion), where I demonstrated that, relatively, BMO’s win in the Melbourne Cup at Sandown (515m) was at a substantially slower rate than its wins in shorter races, more so than might be expected over the longer trip. That was noticeable in the Geelong Cup, where the box positions were the reverse of Hobart and it easily beat Paw Licking and created a new record. In practical terms, the Melbourne Cup was lost by other dogs while the Geelong Cup was won by sheer brilliance.

This underlines a somewhat misleading description of such dogs as one-turn specialists. In practice, the nature of the track has little to do with it – the real answer is that they are better over the shorter trips. That’s where their speed is optimised.

There was a time when big track and circle track dogs were more clearly defined. For example, I once ran a survey of hundreds of dogs racing at each of Maitland and Wentworth Park and found that the former lot averaged 2 kg heavier – ie there was a tendency for them to be big striders, needing space to work with. Of course, that check occurred well after Harold Park had closed, but the remnants of the breeding patterns were still there in the Hunter greyhound community, and so were their big tracks. Their historical focus had been to launch them locally at Maitland and Cessnock, and then head to the wide open spaces of Harold Park. Geelong played a roughly similar role in Victoria, as did the Gold Coast in Queensland.

It seems that progress, if you can call it that, has involved an increasing preference for speed sires and speed racers, perhaps even smaller or less robust dogs (although I cannot verify that). That trend has paralleled – or prompted – a rise in the proportion of shorter races today. Yet all the big cash (except at Hobart) is being offered at circle tracks and big striders will often have problems there – at least on average (although the versatile Farmor Las Vegas is a hefty 37 kg). The Quinella dogs in the Hobart Thousand are both in the 31-32 kg range while the field averaged 33.1 kg.

To some extent, none of this is new, but it does point out that oils ain’t oils. Some dogs get around tight tracks better than others; some are the reverse, while others don’t care one way or the other. But BMO lost this race because of circumstances, not because of raw ability. Such is racing.

More widely, is this a further clue to the declining number of dogs capable of running out a distance race?

BUSINESS SENSE?

Last Thursday night posed another peculiar move. In its wisdom, GRV grabbed hold of an opportunity and rammed into the program an additional meeting at Shepparton, made up of lowly maidens and T3 campaigners. This on greyhound racing’s busiest night of the week with four capital cities racing, plus a feature night at Dapto, plus Warrnambool and Mandurah.

All told, the evening saw eight greyhound meetings, including the Hobart Thousand final and heats of the Laurels, as well as three harness and one gallops meeting in a space of five hours or so. How on earth is it possible for a punter to find his way through all that? The answer is he can’t. Clashes are unavoidable, confusion reigns, some meetings are just ignored and betting pools are diluted below the level of true interest.

Is that dilution worthwhile? If you are chasing mug gamblers alone, it probably doesn’t, as they are going to bet on something with whatever they have in their pockets. But for anyone wanting to see how the betting market develops, preferably to a high level, it is disastrous. Not only is the patronage split every which way, but it takes more time to funnel the information through the communication system and more space to display it to live customers, meaning they tend to see even smaller portions of the final pool, while race clashes are inevitable.

A minor factor complicating this process is the continued presence of Duet betting, one of the most nonsensical products ever dreamed up in racing history. Each successful gambler will end up splitting $100 or so with an unknown number of fellow gamblers, achieving a totally unpredictable dividend. It’s clearly not worth the TAB’s administrative costs in running it and it certainly diverts business from Quinella and Exacta pools which are always in need of a boost. In short, the product is a lemon. Why don’t racing administrators call for a ban?

What effect did all that have on other betting? Hard to tell but note that Paw Licking paid less on Tattsbet ($7.90) than in the other two jurisdictions. Considering the high quality of the field, the pool sizes on the Hobart Thousand were pretty ordinary, and often exceeded by week to week pools at the major tracks.

Tote Win First Four Winner Favourite
Victoria $27 515 $12 761 $11.00 $1.30
NSW $16 517 $15 349 $9.30 $1.30
TattsBet* $15 549 $22 759 $7.90 $1.40

* TattsBet covers Northern Territory, Queensland, SA and Tasmania. WA is in the Victorian pool.

Having the home track did not help TattsBet much. The high Victorian figure no doubt reflects Tasmanians deserting the local tote in favour of the more robust one in Melbourne.

CASINO

Timers still wonky. Hand-timing for 484m – not noted on results page – and no sectionals. Been going on for weeks. Some modest repairs are called for, but no big money, please. The track does not meet modern standards and, in NSW’ stringent financial climate, is overdue to be amalgamated with the adjacent Lismore operation.

Past Discussion

  1. Being a photographer, you get use to the dogs racing patterns. Either they are front runners or drop back and come from behind. Also, if the go wide in he straight and go in the centre of the track.
    Like you said weight plays it’s part as well.

  2. Being a photographer, you get use to the dogs racing patterns. Either they are front runners or drop back and come from behind. Also, if the go wide in he straight and go in the centre of the track.
    Like you said weight plays it’s part as well.

  3. Would you say El grand senor was an exception? He was certainly on the large end of the scale and didn’t appear to struggle getting around the tighter tracks.

  4. Would you say El grand senor was an exception? He was certainly on the large end of the scale and didn’t appear to struggle getting around the tighter tracks.

  5. Shepparton was shifted to a night meeting because the extreme heat forecast meant it couldn’t be run in it’s original twilight time slot. Hardly a case of GRV grabbing hold of an opportunity and ramming into the program an additional meeting

  6. Shepparton was shifted to a night meeting because the extreme heat forecast meant it couldn’t be run in it’s original twilight time slot. Hardly a case of GRV grabbing hold of an opportunity and ramming into the program an additional meeting